Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sticks Out

I knew a man who was fond of saying, “as Saint Paul says, ‘everything in moderation’.” Then he would look at me and ask, “Do you suppose he meant prayer too?” Praying in moderation? Well, Paul also recommended that we are to pray without ceasing, and our Gospel today assumes that it is good to pray always and not to lose heart.

I always thought of it as a funny image: prayer without ceasing. That is, going about my usual activities in prayer, muttering words or on my knees (kind of ridiculous when you think about it). So, maybe Paul, Luke and Jesus have a different thing in mind than words or posture when they spoke or wrote about prayer.

When we look at the kinds of things that they say about prayer it seems as though prayer is as much about an attitude or point-of-view as it is about a specific recitation of words (whether read, memorized or extemporaneous).

Obviously, prayer is about words (and thoughts and feelings), but it is more. Prayer and service are paired together in the New Testament. Prayer and alms-giving; prayer and acts of kindness; belief, faith, salvation, knowledge and insight are all paired with prayer. Perhaps it is prayer and thanksgiving that are most strongly paired.

I save the saying, “sticks out like a sore thumb” exclusively for when I am talking about sore thumbs. But mostly people use the phrase for anything that sticks out in some way, both good and bad. People that we tend to think of as “Prayerful People” stick out like sore thumbs and not because they are always asking us to pray with them or always praying themselves. They stuck out because in some way or other they exhibit the qualities we associate with prayer: service, alms-giving, acts of kindness, belief, faith, salvation, knowledge and thanksgiving.

It is good to pray, and to pray with words and thoughts and feelings, and those prayers will bring us to an attitude that will have us stick out like prayerful people.

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